Channel News Asia Interview

Just thought I might share some of the questions and answers that were not aired on the tv. =)
1)      Was the decision to get back to running after your accident a tough one and did you get any support?
I don’t think it was a tough decision. As a matter of fact, it was a natural decision for me. On the day I did my first walk and was told that the session had ended, I told my physio that I wanted to go for another walk because these are my first steps back into running. Running is my motivation to go through all the gruelling  rehabilitations.
The impression I got was that all my friends, team mates,coach and family members wasn’t against me attempting to run again. However, they were not totally supportive at the beginning probably because they didn’t want to give me false hope. I guess the most important thing was that I did not give up on myself. I kept faith. So when I became better and all, I could sense the support was no longer a “show” but it became genuine. The first people who showed that to me were my girlfriend, my uwa tri team mates and my coach. 

2)      Was it difficult to make a comeback despite the fact that you had competed in the Kobe Marathon?
It sure is a difficult process. It was even tougher knowing that I was actually training well for Gold coast 2014. At times I feel blessed to be able to run again, at times I feel so disappointed having lost all I once had. I had to acknowledge the fact that currently I am not able to run a sub 3 hour marathon and I had to be at peace with the situation. I try to use the Kobe experience as a goal for me to work towards. I often visualise myself running on the race course, trying to beat my personal best and to feel the adrenaline of racing again. In fact, I have told my Japanese friends that one day, hopefully soon, I will be back racing in Kobe. So at this point of time, I would not consider this a comeback yet. The best is yet to be.

3)      Is the training and competition part of your therapy?
Well, some of the medical staff told me how “unrealistic” my goals were and that I should be contented with being able to walk. So training and competition were not part of the hospital’s therapy session. But i refused to agree. So my answer would be “Yes!” training and competition are part of my therapy.
Because I am an exercise physiologist, my physio and myself have great mutual respect for each other. She allowed me to plan my cycling workout during rehab and I take every one of these sessions seriously. I work as hard during my rehab as I would be while competing.  I would often cycle till I wet the bike, doing extra sessions on the bike. I even blacked out a couple of times from pushing my body to its limit. I always competed against the “yesterday me”, making sure I gave my all every single session. I hold on 3 phrases everyday when I do my rehab: 
1)”Always challenge yourself” – Grant Landers
2) “My race begins during my training” – Zac Leow
3) Nil Sine Labore (nothing without labour) – Victoria School

4)      Besides proving your doctors wrong, do you think you will inspire others like yourself to take on such a challenge?
I guess I have not considered myself as an inspiration. I think I represent that little bit of resentment in every patient, the bit that wants to tell the doctor that “hey. I can do better than what you think”.  Every patient has their own challenges and in fact everyday is a different challenge. I remembered the days when standing up to use the toilet felt like the biggest challenge of my life! I guess when hardwork meets opportunity, great things do happen.  If you don’t try, you will never know if today is your lucky day. So i hope others will give it a shot at overcoming their challenges. Nothing to lose, but everything to gain. 

In the video, it says:
28-year old Zac Leow is another inspirational runner who hopes to beat the odds. The avid runner was partially paralysed from a spinal injury due to a cycling accident in 2013.
Doctors said he will never walk again, but Zac is not accepting that as he tries to complete the half-marathon.
He said: “It is more of a process. To me, the whole idea is to get back to where I was before I got into my accident and in fact. I want to better myself.”
I wish to make some amendments to the report. Doctors told me i will not be able to run, let alone race. They did say that I was able to walk. This is the least I could do to deliver some justification to the medical team back in Perth. 

I would also take this opportunity to thank my family, girlfriend, unihall mates, UWA staff and friends, UWATRI team mates and coach, singapore friends, especially my VS bros and my band mates, Asics Japan and Hivelocity for their continued support through this tough period. and you know how i will end this post don’t you?

my determination has no equal.
Nil Sine Labore.

My first walk

Was having this conversation with Shina and we started talking about the videos and pictures of me during my injury/recovery phase. So we took out our phones and started comparing the files that we had and guess what, I discovered pictures and videos of myself that I have never seen before!

So this is a video of me taking my 1st walk ever since the accident. Literally my first walk.
Its funny how I don’t really recall this. Judging from my expression, I could tell that it was hard work and I must have been focusing real hard. Maybe my brain was still in the “shut-down” mode or maybe the brain just wants to “block out” this part of the memory. I am not too sure, but I am sure happy to find this video.

Looking back, I wished I had taken more photos and videos of myself during this journey. It would have been such a great story to share with my kids or even with anyone else. I even remember my first ever photo was taken by Jason and he was scolded by others because this was some kinda bad omen. At that point in time when the photo was taken, I was 99.9% paralysed, with only the slightest of movement coming from my right thumb. I remember Jason telling off the others and said “Come on man. This picture is gonna be great one day. Zac will be able to tell everyone of his amazing recovery and how he makes his brilliant come back. We should take more photos!”
Such positive and encouraging words. Jason Tex Ah Soon, Thanks for your faith, belief and love. Indeed, this is one great story. It would have been better if I make a full recovery. So, I shall continue to work my ass off, to ensure I have the best possible ending. The cherry to top of this story eh.

Loving the “one tough cookie” bit. Thanks Tex

Its really good that I have been able to keep track of my progress. Makes me appreciate how much I have gone through and probably I dont have to be so hard on myself all the time.

On hindsight, having the ability to go some like jogging is really a blessing now and I thank God for my second chance.

BTW. I have a secret adventure coming soon.
Its gonna be legend-wait-for-it-dary! =)
Stay tune to this space. I am gonna surprise everyone. Hopefully even myself. haha!
Nil Sine Labore

Shocking announcement of my injury

So here I am back in this familiar place, to do all these familiar test on my left hand.
Something was different today, I could tell before I had a chance to speak to my OT.

“Today is the day you will be discharged from OT till you get the next bout of botox.”

Good news! This meant that I have officially graduated from the system, so-called there was nothing more the OTs could have done for me. At the same time, I felt a little sad. I knew that there were still alot of work needed for my left hand and arm. I am still far off from where I once was. So does this meant that the OTs think that this is  the end of the journey for me? I don’t know. I try not to think too deep into this and probably just have to keep my head down and work hard (once again) and hope for the best. fingers crossed*

My OT then recapped my whole injury journey with an intern and it made me realised how long and cruel this journey had been.
On day one, i couldnt use my left hand and legs.
Some days later I managed to stand, then transfer myself from bed to chair/wheelchair, and bit by bit, my right hand got stronger, till finally, one day when my left hand decided to wake up and we could actually do some quantitative test for my left hand. I sure love quantitative tests, part and parcel of being a scientist i guess, totally sucked in by numbers. Hey. Numbers don’t lie. That is the beauty of things. Then came the shocking news.

OT: So, Zac, you are actually an official C1 incomplete spinal patient.

Me: Huh? What? I thought I was a C4 incomplete.

OT: Nope. You had a C4 fracture but you are really a C1 incomplete. This is how we term things. The lowest vertebrae that is unaffected by the injury will be reflected. Because you have deficits starting from your C2, you are then termed as a C1 incomplete.

My jaw dropped. Never did I know it was THAT serious.

OT: So, do you know what are the implications if Zac’s C1 would have been affected?

Intern: Zac would have only been able to move his head after the fall?

OT: Nope.  He would have died.

I felt cold from within, all over again.

OT: C1 controls the respiratory system. So, if it was damaged, Zac’s respiratory system would have stopped functioning and unless someone were to perform CPR on him immediately, his journey would have ended there.

I felt so thankful to be in the position I am in now. To be able to live. To be able to be given a second chance at life. Literally, a second life.

Intern: My goodness. You must be really lucky Zac. How many years ago did this accident happen?

Me: 6 months ago. Almost exactly 6 months ago.

The intern was shocked. I can see it in his eyes.

OT: And I will have to be honest, Zac is a fighter. He comes in smashing the workouts daily, never giving up and till today, I have no idea why he is recovering so fast and well. Nevertheless, I am happy for him and I am sure his family is.

This OT session will be embedded in my heart. This conversation has reminded me of this near-death accident I had. Often I hear people saying “If i were to be paralyzed, I would rather die”. Let me tell you know that is a lot of bull. I would rather be paralyzed than to die. I am really thankful.

After all the rehabilitation, I could not help but ask myself “what if”. I could not help but think about the accident. I could not help but think how badly things could have gotten and this, made me think about my accident very differently now. Like very differently. I know i almost died. I know i could have been paralysed for life. I just did not know I was this close. I would say a differences of 1 mm would have been the end of chapter on earth.

SO, me being me, I just had to drive by the accident site again.
“FACE IT HEAD ON” I hear it screaming in my head.
I stopped the car, took a real good look. Let the memory replay the accident in my head.
I took my time to ensure I was able to walk away from here knowing that I am undefeated. I know that I have to be at peace with the situation, with myself.
I embraced the crash. the pain, the helpless and the near-death. I think I did.
I was ready to go.

I got into my car, and unknowingly, I drove myself to McGilivary, the place where I was heading towards when I had my crash.

The view that greeted me at McGilivary. “Come get me” it says.

The sky looks so clear. The grass felt soft. How I missed the 400 m track.
I had just finished a big rehabilitation session with the physios and I had just done a 30km time-trial yesterday. I should have known better than to start running. As everyone would have known by now, I couldnt care less.

Off came my jumper and I started running. This familiar place, this wonderful place where I had so many wonderful memories together with Grant, Gab, Alex and James. As i was running, I recalled the first session I had with Grant. I could remember the exact workout that was done that night and unfortunately how I was dropped by everyone. When I came back on the 100 m bend, I remembered how Gab, Stuart and I used to do the intervals during the winter with them doing 1000 m and me doing 900 m. This very line on lane 8 was where I stopped while I watch Gab fly off to complete his 1000 m. I even remembered Gab grumbling saying “why does Zac have it easy? its 100 m shorter than me”.

The ending of my first ever 900 m repeats.

As I took my rest between the 400 m, I could “hear” Grant telling me how I should have as little rest as possible between the repeats because I need to learn to function with all these lactic in me. I took off and gone for another 4 sets before I threw up. Amazingly, I threw up at the exact same spot as I did on my first training with Grant. I smiled to myself.

It feels bloody good to be alive. 

Never felt so happy to be throwing up. 

Today was the first time I actually ran with ease. I could actually think of all these while I am running. I felt free for the brief moment. As i ran my last 800 m, I prayed and gave thanks to God. Thank you for keeping me a little longer.

Hopefully I will be able to build up more sets and speed in time to come.
Hope to be back training, throwing up, building all the lactic in me.
I am not going to back off. Life is too short.
I will join you on the 1000 m repeat again Gab. No short cuts this time round.

I will be back.

prepared and written by Zac Leow